WHY THE 'LEAVERS' WON THE REFERNDUM
"One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not. Also, one must admit that the divisions between nation and nation are founded on real differences of outlook. Till recently it was thought proper to pretend that all human beings are very much alike, but in fact anyone able to use his eyes knows that the average of human behaviour differs enormously from country to country. Things that could happen in one country could not happen in another. Hitler's June purge, for instance, could not have happened in England. And, as western peoples go, the English are very highly differentiated. There is a sort of back-handed admission of this in the dislike which nearly all foreigners feel for our national way of life. Few Europeans can endure living in England, and even Americans often feel more at home in Europe. When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin-tables in the Soho pubs, the old maids hiking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning – all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?... And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillar-boxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you".George Orwell. The Lion and the Unicorn. (1941).
"Whether it was meant to be or not, this referendum was in effect a vote on globalisation, and so pitted people generally in favour of multiculturalism and social liberalism against those opposed to it. Despite being on the wrong side of history the latter edged it, just as I imagine if Elizabethan England had held a referendum on the national religion in, say, 1580, Catholicism would still have won, with the few remaining papist toffs supported by large numbers of rustics who don’t abide with the new progressive faith. Imagine how that would have gone down in London or Cambridge among the angry righteous. One of the central tenets of today’s new faith is internationalism, which is why the arguments for sovereignty which appeal to older people totally misfire with younger voters. Middle class British people under the age of 45 generally have very little sense of nationalism, and I’m not sure nationalism can be entirely separated from patriotism. I wouldn’t say this was a result of post-imperial guilt, or indoctrination at school, rather it’s the inevitable end product of a very individualistic open-looking culture in which people are encouraged to look beyond family, clan and tribe. Or to be pessimistic, we’re at the end of the asabiyyah cycle. Internationalism is a high-status belief, and so it is held by high-status people. (One of the funny things about this whole referendum is that many of the laws in place to control the bad sort of immigration people object to do exist, such as ejecting foreign nationals who have not found a job after three months: Britain just doesn’t enforce them. So the issue is not that Brussels prevents us from controlling borders, but that our political class has lost the will to do it; I suspect the reason is that culturally the subject of border control is just considered embarrassingly low status.) This doesn’t necessarily make our younger generation of internationalists a tolerant bunch. As the slogan ‘refugees in, racists out’ indicates, they’ve simply switched one form of out-group for another, replacing nationalism with political sectarianism. This is what makes them seem quite terrifying, to me, for a moral community convinced that its opponents are devious is a terrible thing to behold. And as national feeling continues to decline in Britain, people will increasingly refuse to accept when they lose in politics".Ed[ward] West, "Why we need a second referendum – on the EEA". The Spectator. 29 June 2016, in www.spectator.co.uk. In the midst of the voluminous amount of commentary that I have read in the past six days endeavoring to explain way the British voting public chose to vote to leave the European Union [hereafter the 'EU'], the short commentary by Edward West in the London Spectator is perhaps the very best that I have come across. He is indeed correct in observing that au fond, the referendum without perhaps meaning to, was an up or down vote on 'globalization' and the concomitant issues of 'multiculturalism and social liberalism'. It seems very much the case, that most of those who voted in favor of leaving the EU are some variant of English nationalists `a la Orwell perhaps, who reject outright or are very ambivalent about all three of the above referenced tendencies. And accordingly, those who are in favor of the same three tendencies voted or were inclined to vote against leaving the EU. For those who voted in favor of leaving, the economic or 'scare' argument did not work, because for many of the self-same voters, the issue was not a economic one, but an emotional one, dealing with nationality, sovereignty and patriotism. The former including many who remember (mostly when young or very young of course) standing up at the cinema to 'God Save the Queen', and those for whom the very idea of the same seems unthinkable, no doubt voted almost entirely for the opposite. For myself, who am skeptical of globalization and positively hostile to both multiculturalism and social liberalism, the reason that I was not, and am not in favor of the leave argument is simply that those politicians who harnessed the leave campaign (in particular Boris Johnson and Michael Gove) were self-evidently either hugely opportunistic (Johnson) or confused and out of their depths (Gove). Not to speak of the reptilian Nigel Farage of course. And the fact that Gove's own wife has now reported in her Daily Mail column that she (and one presumes her husband) found the results of the referendum both ultra-surprising and 'terrifying', shows how completely unprepared were both Gove and Johnson 1. Something that the latter's incoherent mutterings in his own newspaper column this week, seems to support. The other reason for my non-support for the leave argument, is that per se there is nothing in the entire EU superstructure which prevents a truly nationalist and sovereign British government from acting in the way that it wants. Viz the current governments of Poland and Hungary. Which whatever one may say about them, are truly both nationalistic and members of the EU. Showing if nothing else that per se there is no incongruity between the two. Per contra to Messieurs Johnson and Gove, who at bottom are most likely not opposed to either multiculturalism or social liberalism, and probably in favor of globalization, insofar as that refers to free-trade, open markets for goods, capital and to a lesser extent people. With the end-result of a Johnson-Gove duumvirate being some hugely entertaining (unless you are British of course) climb-down, whereby controls on immigration are traded for access to the EU `a la Norway. A result which Martin Wolf in the Financial Times correctly calls simply 'mad' 2. A comment which I believe sums up the entirety of the leave position. 1. Henry Mance, "Michael Gove’s wife says Brexit result ‘terrifying’". The Financial Times. 29 June 2016, in www.ft.com. 2. Martin Wolf, "What a Prime Minister Boris Johnson should do next". The Financial Times. 28 June 2016, in www.ft.com.